From bulletin: St. John Passion service, Bethany Lutheran Church, March 29, 2015

From bulletin: St. John Passion service, Bethany Lutheran Church,
March 29, 2015

Sunday’s experience singing Bach’s St. John Passion felt more than a little surreal. Other than on the songs when I myself had to join in on the hard work of singing, I often felt as if I were somehow inside a recording of the music I’ve been listening to over the past several months. The 40 songs on my phone that are now so familiar provide so much more music than the choruses and chorales our choir has been rehearsing. For one thing they come accompanied by an orchestra, not just our choir accompanist playing on the piano a small portion of the completeness provided by the various instrumental parts. And for another, we practiced our own songs but had little or no exposure to the arias in ordinary rehearsals.

In fact, because what we were doing was only part of the complete work, that is why I decided to start listening to those 40 songs in order—no shuffling allowed. This winter whenever I plugged my ear buds into my phone, I selected Bach to accompany me as I pushed my snow blower or ran. My purpose wasn’t to focus on the music but to let the songs—mine and those of others, transitions, and accompaniment seep into me. Last week, before the dress rehearsal with the other musicians, I would have told you I wasn’t ready to sing my parts—despite seven months of group rehearsals and practice on my own.

But with those musicians? Wow—just wow. Oh certainly, I didn’t have everything down just perfectly, but it helped so much to have the support of such high level instrumentalists as well as the professional soloists who also sang with us. At Saturday’s dress rehearsal there were moments when I would hear the other sections of the choir sing and think, “Is that sound really coming from us?” It was so much easier to sing up to a new standard surrounded by all that excellence as I sat and stood immersed in something that sounded a whole lot like what had been coming into my ears all winter long.

For the few hours of Sunday’s service I was transported into an almost ethereal space where I even forgot sometimes how hard I was working.

Because of that I could really hear the message and sense just how passionate this passion was—our God was put to trial and forsaken. The heavenly music told a tale of oh-so-earthly human failures. No wonder so many of the faces I faced as I sang that the final number—including not just those of those in attendance, but also of our director—were either close to tears or had tears escaping—as is also likely true of my face and of those standing with me in the choir. How could we not “get” the story when told as Bach intended?

Indeed—what a way to put the holy into Holy Week.

(Note: in order to listen, access the link embedded above and go to the worship archives for March and click on March 29, St. John Passion.)

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Music is one of my first languages—and I know it had a big role in how my brain first developed. Music is also one of the best ways for all people to keep our brains healthy as we get older. But when I joined the church choir after my kids left home, I didn’t do it for my brain. I did it because I missed practicing music within a group. Yet I am sure my brain appreciated the regular exposure to learning and singing demanding music, just as my heart appreciated the words we sang.

I had only sung in the choir for two years when our long-time and excellent director retired. Everything old seemed new again under the direction of Dr. James Kim—for many reasons, but especially because he is a passionate scholar of J. S. Bach. Thanks to Dr. Kim’s focus on Bach and the messages in his work, all our brains have stepped up the mental workouts while also growing in understanding the whys behind the sacred music Bach left behind.

This second year with Dr. Kim, our brains should be even healthier. He has challenged—and guided—us to sing J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion—and in German, too. Together (and on our own) we have been learning words in a new language and delving into complex musical patterns since late last summer. Oh, sure, some of our members are accomplished singers who have extensive musical training and who have sung in or do sing in performance choirs. But in the end, we are a church choir and as such anyone is welcome to join us. There are no auditions or requirements—except maybe for the desire to sing for the glory of God.

Bach was a church musician—not your average church musician, neither then nor now—who was most concerned with how his works glorified God. No doubt he strove to strengthen the health of souls through his words and notes, but I am also grateful for how they have also benefitted my brain health at the same time the words have been written into my heart.

Tomorrow on Palm Sunday afternoon at 4:00, under the direction of Dr. James Kim and accompanied by guest instrumentalists, the Bethany Lutheran Church Chancel Choir, along with accomplished soloists, will present the St. John Passion as an extended church service.

The complex and beautiful music by Bach that has challenged and developed me simplifies the difficult task of opening hearts. After so many months immersed in such exceptional words and musical notes, the spirit is willing in each of us participating in this offering to the congregation and community—may our flesh (and brains) also be strong enough so that all who listen—young, old, and in-between—hear the glory to God that Bach intended.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

When I took the Strong Interest Inventory about 20 years ago, some of the results indicated I might like to work in a church. Since I didn’t feel any calling in that direction and since I also like my weekends free from job-related tasks, I eventually put the suggestion down to a cultural bias. Just because I answered as a person of faith doesn’t mean faith-based work was my vocation. Perhaps I am just called to think and act as a person of faith in other professions/work settings. Nonetheless, I’m betting it was my “I like singing hymns” response that most directed that particular result.

But, hey, I do like singing hymns. In past centuries much of the best music was written for the Church and I’m into singing good music. Beyond that, though, part of why I am musical is because I was raised in a strong German-American family. The German-Americans where I’m from had traditions such as playing instruments together in family bands and meeting up often to sing—which included singing many of the hymns that came from the German chorales.

Even as teens and young adults in the 70s and 80s, my cousins and I had great fun doing this. It never occurred to us just how nerdy our singing hymns might appear to the general population. However, we didn’t sing just hymns—I remember singing songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” or pieces from musicals such as Pippin—but we always sang in at least 4-part harmony. The youngest cousins started as page-turners for my mom’s piano playing, learning from the bench before they were old enough to join in. When we reunited in song at Mom’s and an uncle’s services, it was as if we were doing what we had always done but with cousins moving into the places of director and accompanist.

My own music lessons began with piano and clarinet, but picked up vocally when we moved to a new town when I turned 10. With our family back in a Lutheran church again, Mom began to teach my brother and me—Sunday service after Sunday service—how to read and sing harmony from the liturgy and the hymns. So much of what I know about choral singing comes from first honing my sight-reading skills while singing hymns. Hymns have also helped me practice singing almost weekly since 1972, even during years when I do not participate in a choir.

Thanks to Mom, I always had an opportunity to sing while growing up, whether at home, in church, or through some group she was directing for my brother and me and our friends. Of course I also sang at school, but only through my freshman year in college. The hymn-singing is what has remained most constant for me.

And when I can, I sing the harmony in those hymns, week after week. Over time I’ve noticed the patterns of particular organists. For example, the organist playing for the church I attended in college always changed up the harmonies on the third verse while my church’s current organist usually varies the final verse. Until I joined the choir at church again in 2011, hymn-singing has been one of my only opportunities in adult life to sing harmony besides the three years in the 80s in another church choir and an earlier year (1990) with my current church choir. Singing harmony with hymns is to singing in choir as doing warm-up jogs are to running races or as writing in a journal is to formal writing—it is a very good way to practice skills even when you aren’t performing, so to speak.

As our society has transitioned to a post-Christian one—a society where a person who likes to sing hymns might not just be considered an average churchgoer but instead someone who should work in a church—so has the Church’s desire to be welcoming—as it should if it wants to remain relevant to all who hunger for God. We need to remove barriers that make others feel unwelcome. Yet at the same time we are also losing traditions, some strongly tied to eras when our ethnic traditions carried into how we “did” church services. Nonetheless, what feels inclusive to me most likely feels exclusive to someone raised outside my tradition.

I get it, but that doesn’t mean I like musical changes in the church service such as (only) the words of hymns being displayed on walls for us to sing or our hymnals showing just the melodies for many songs. For me so much joy has come from communal singing—in harmony.

Which means I better keep singing in a church choir. Trust me, though, when I say no one is going to pay me to do so as a profession. As Bach wrote at the bottom of each of his works, “S. D. G.”“Soli Deo Gloria” or glory to God alone. To get to sing to God—in harmony with others—is enough.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

The winter of my son’s discontent has begun to thaw thanks to—his Grandma Mae’s accordion? Really. These long days and nights of waiting for his post-concussion syndrome to subside have left him with time on his hands since he is still banned from doing his martial arts—the activity that previously filled his evenings and provided an outlet for the excessive energy that runs through his body whether or not his head is aching. Winter’s low light, his restrictions, and his pain have led to a massive case of cabin fever, especially as he has no idea when his healing will pick up. He needed something (safe) to do and we needed him to have something do when he wasn’t at work—which was more often since he’s still not released to work a full schedule. Who knew the accordion really could step in against the face of doing too much of nothing?

Not I, but I was getting desperate. If you don’t know, people who are concussed (mini-rant: when did that become a proper term?) get pretty irritable. Plus, any brain challenges a person has get exacerbated—which means my son’s rant gene (we’re pretty sure there must be one in our family including in his mother) has ramped up the monologues around here. What could he do that would grab the attention of his brain while having a physical component? I thought he’d try out my LEGO suggestion but instead he grabbed onto the accordion idea, especially after I pointed out he could start learning by using the Internet.

After the first two days he had already played the thing for eight hours. His bored (yet bruised) brain sang with joy—or at least his fingers did. Pretty soon he was researching how the accordion was put together and how to fix the stuck buttons. He knows the background of his accordion’s brand and has a good idea of its age and value. He can tell you about different styles of instruments and accordion-playing traditions across different countries and over several time periods. I’ve become used to falling asleep to the sound of an accordion—which is fine since he most often chooses to play with a sweet tone—it’s almost as if I’m rocking asleep in a boat in Venice. Almost.

At first our dog Sam ran from the music. Something about the vibrations or the movement of the bellows scared him in a way that our playing other instruments hasn’t. Thankfully Sam’s made a truce with the instrument because I don’t think it’s going away any time soon—and that’s a good thing because this personal music therapy has done more for our son than anything else has over the past three months.

Perhaps he’ll become the next Lawrence Welk? When I first said that, I meant it in jest, but after finding a really old video of the Bubble-master playing his accordion, old Lawrence is much redeemed in my eyes—I’ve yet to forgive him for all those dull shows of his I had to watch while visiting my grandparents, but if he’d played his accordion that way in his later years, he would have kept my attention.

Maybe my son had to get hit on the head to find his true calling—or not. But thank goodness the accordion is a friend when he needs it to get through this overly long healing period. Even if his music didn’t sound so sweet, that alone would make it enough for me. How sweet it is indeed.

P.S. Check out Lawrence Welk’s playing–it’s well worth a listen.

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

How many of us have attended weddings where we listened to Bible verses read from 1 Corinthians 13? The passage that begins with “Love is patient and kind” introduces one of the most detailed treatises on love in the Bible. The Apostle Paul did not set out to address the love between partners or even friends or family, but instead spoke of agape love—which is divine love of and from God. Still, many of us think of these verses when we think of romantic love and commitment. These words model godly love as an example of how to behave toward all people whom we love, yet we, who are human, most need them to remember how to treat the most constant person in our lives—and thus the frequent reminder at wedding ceremonies.

Why is the person who is most precious to us—and the one who puts up with our failings so often—the one we find so hard to treat with the respect and love he or she deserves?

Everyday life intrudes upon the drug-like euphoria we feel when first falling in love. When we begin to know someone, we can’t imagine acting self-seeking or rude to them. That person is a perfect fit for us. And yet no one really is a perfect fit—it’s more a question of what we can live with or live without and what we must have in order to continue together happily enough.

In other words, if love is a drug, what benefits must a person receive and what side effects are too much? For example, look at stimulant medications used to treat AD/HD—medications that are often abused illegally. Contrary to popular beliefs, when properly prescribed, these medications aren’t supposed to give a high or create a life filled with peaks and valleys. Too much stimulant can leave a person feeling anxious and irritable even if it might give the focus to pull all-nighters. The appropriate dose and type of medication for the AD/HD patient is the one that brings the person into the moment and that provides a sense of calm as well as confidence that the person can find balance in life and manage necessary matters in his or her life, including relationships with others.

Some love seems more like the stimulants abused just to feel the highs—even when the lows are simply caused by a mismatch in the needs of the individuals in a relationship.

When I fell in love that first time, I couldn’t imagine coming down from that high. But when the lows came, I didn’t want to recognize just how much I was trying to force what we had just to get back to the highs. And the more I forced, the less my own love acted like that 1-Corinthians-13 love, even as I tried to let those words be my guide. All I wanted was more time with him, but what he needed was time for sleep, sports, schoolwork, and helping others. Our love was like too much stimulant—incredibly high and energetic until it became irritating and fragile. Despite his desire to live out a 1-Corinthians-13 love, he could not do so with me any more than I could with him—trying harder to follow these tenets would not make it happen. The side effects of our drug of love were too numerous and too damaging to continue together.

On the other hand, when we’re compatible with someone, it’s not as hard to have a 1-Corinthian-13 type of love—assuming we believe in and strive to follow those words. This is what I have found with Sherman, my husband of 26 years. Yes, maintaining a day-to-day love long term still has some challenges, but it is not all-day-and-all-night difficult. With a lasting love, much of it happens easily because we love who they are—with us and away from us. We can be in the moment together and confident that who we are together will be good and will also allow us each to be the individuals we are. For all their eccentricities, we love more of them than we do not. As Sherman likes to say, “You marry the strangest people.” To which I always respond, “You certainly do.”

Though our wedding ceremony did not include reading the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, we see those words as an explanation for how to live out the passages we did choose from John 15 and 1 John 4, including the following:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

If love is at all like a drug, then it’s more like a medication prescribed by God, the healer—don’t settle for one bought from a street dealer. Love is patient and kind—and that also applies to loving ourselves enough to have the patience to wait for a 1-Corinthians-13 love.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

Winter finally blustered back in once when we were settling into a lovely pseudo-spring. Just last Thursday we were enjoying 60 degrees and sunshine and now the thermometer has gone so low as to almost hit zero. I blame two people for the severity of this abrupt weather change since they seem to have forgotten the old adage of being careful when telling the Universe what you want. A few specifics surrounding their requests might have helped.

First our niece Alex said she really hoped for snow on the ground for her February wedding, scheduled to take place outside in the foothills of the mountains—well, not only did she get it on the ground as well as falling from the sky, but she also received arctic temperatures to preserve all that white stuff. Perhaps she should have suggested specific snowfall amounts and limited the temperature drop? But, hey, thanks to well-positioned heaters as well as guests who knew enough to wear accessories such as long johns, snow boots, and whatever else we needed to stay warm enough, her magical winter wonderland wedding ceremony did go on outside. After she got the white wedding she desired, she and her Mr. Right and everyone else got a whole lot warmer by moving into the venue’s snug—and well-heated—stone house for the remainder of the evening.

And then there is my husband Sherman who has had to plow the family’s commercial building parking lot five times since last Saturday—yes, that includes the morning before the wedding, the morning of, and the morning after. At this point, he’s grateful he could recover somewhat by skipping the task Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to take up the plow yesterday and this morning. You see, he decided he wanted to put together a bike for the upcoming spring riding season, but mentioned he spent all his savings and his birthday money on the first few pieces he bought. In order to start building he would need to earn some extra cash—which I think the Universe interpreted as a good reason to keep bringing him snow jobs. Maybe he should have expressed a time frame so the Universe didn’t feel so pressured to do it all in one week?

Now the Denver area has topped all previous snowfall records for February. Coincidence? I think not, Alex and Sherman.

I—thanks to picking the right year to upgrade both my snow boots and winter coat—am still capable of enjoying the corresponding beauty, even though I didn’t ask for any of this extreme weather. Last month when I scheduled my upcoming massage, I didn’t think to ask the Universe to provide the funds, but provide it did—the funds, that is, as well as the slightly more achy back from all that pushing the snow blower.

Well done, Winter—welcome back. Now that we’ve received much of the moisture we were missing—some of which we likely did request—let’s talk about March. No need to keep us quite so cold or snowy in the coming weeks, is there? As for my husband’s bike, he’s too tired to put it together yet anyway, so his parts can wait. And Alex is back to the desert, living happily ever after—well as happily as she can live away from the snow she misses.

Here’s a request, Universe. How about a little rest from the daily snows for now? That seems specific enough, and, yet, somehow I bet you find some wiggle room in my words. Which leads to one more request: please be gentle in how you surprise me with your interpretation of my request, OK?

Yeah right. Thanks anyway!

Shoes by Christiana Lambert (2010)

Shoes by Christiana Lambert (2010)

Who touched me? That’s the question Jesus asked when he felt his healing energy find a target on its own. The woman who dared to grasp at the slightest thread of his cloak had little to lose—she had been bleeding for 12 years and, thus, had been declared unclean.

Who do we call unclean? We don’t really have a list of conditions such as a bleeding disorder, but we do start to question others’ health realities after a certain amount of time goes by. When people don’t get better fast enough for us or if they have some underlying issue that is either fairly hidden or just not well understood by the medical community and/or the general public, we wonder why they don’t “get over it” and move on.

Sometimes we have a reference point such as our own recovery or the recovery of someone we know and we assume that there is a formula that states that “X” disease/injury = “Y” recovery time in every circumstance.

Often, however, we know little about a condition and just grow rather fatigued with the inconveniences caused to us by the length of others’ recoveries.

In either situation we can begin to question the person’s motivation or the health care provided.

I think it’s just another example of our belief we control many factors that we may not. I want to believe that if I work hard enough or rest well enough then I’ll get well quickly and regain what I have lost. Isn’t it easier to believe someone is contributing to his or her slow healing than to realize just how at risk any of us is to capricious health threats?

In some ways we act as if it’s catching to be around someone who isn’t well, even when the condition itself isn’t contagious. They should just buck up and get themselves well and stop slowing down our lives.

As if a slowed-down life is a desire for most. As if it isn’t heartbreaking enough to experience enforced rest—from work and life’s other activities—often in conjunction with pain without feeling further abandoned by others who seem over the wait for healing.

Imagine that woman who—thanks to a medical condition—was treated as if she were a moral threat to healthy individuals. In her time of great need she was treated as if she had caused her own problems and as if she deserved her ostracization.

Let’s not make the mistake of declaring others untouchable during the moments when their bodies are most in need of healing as well as the time to do so. Since they don’t have the opportunity to grab Jesus’ robe as he walks by and in lieu of hitting the bull’s-eye of absolute healing they crave, might our patience and support instead be the next best miracle they can receive? The power of Jesus’ healing touch flowing through us lands not far off the mark.

(c)  2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

It is a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word. Andrew Jackson

By the time I sat on the gifted and talented advisory committee for my kids’ school district, I already knew the director spoke the truth. Every few months she reminded us good—or bad—spelling was no sign of giftedness or intelligence.

Some of us must come with a spelling gene that works with this crazy English language of ours. We don’t need to be taught—more than once or twice—how to spell the basics. Plus, we do pretty well with challenging words, also. Even when we have to use some memorization techniques to help us remember, we do remember.

I confess—I am that person who cringes when I see misspelled words. For the longest time I believed people who didn’t spell well just weren’t very bright. I am trying to dial down my judgment (by the way, why isn’t that word spelled as judgement?) and save it for professional organizations and professionals who make a living using words. And, don’t worry, finding my own mistakes feels like fire and ice to me—shame colors me red while chilling the blood flowing through my veins. I cannot hit “edit” or “update” fast enough while knowing that the whole world (literally or figuratively—you decide) can see my errors.

However, I married a person who often cannot see whatever is correct or incorrect about many words. Spelling doesn’t keep him from knowing what the word is or getting the meaning, though. Maybe there’s an even higher intelligence in de-coding words when they don’t meet some exact formula. Turns out he’s smart enough for me to love, even if he can’t spell well. Who knew? Not me when I lived in the ivory tower of spelling elitism.

As for the children of our union? If there’s a spelling gene, it’s certainly skipped our daughter. But for her, she can get the spelling long enough to pass some quiz, even if she doesn’t always retain the knowledge. In fourth grade she’d often fail the pre-test on Monday, but after doing the practice work, she’d ace the test on Friday. Our son has more natural ability, but still doesn’t care to the level I do.

While I am less uptight about others’ spelling than I used to be, there are still situations where I think getting it right really matters. I guess if I didn’t think that way I wouldn’t be much of an editor or proofreader. If spelling is not your thing, but you’re putting something out to the world—literally or figuratively—then that’s a good time to ask for some help from one of your friends who cares just a little too much about spelling.

Believe it or not, but for most of us it is a compulsion—we cannot not see the errors.

You help us by keeping us from hyperventilating over seeing errors and we help you not to put those errors you can’t see out into the world. I’m not offering to edit and/or proofread your novels, but it is easy for me to see small errors in short pieces.

Well, easy to see unless they are my own. Sigh. Even holier-than-thou spellers make mistakes—feel free to save me from myself when I, too, have committed orthographic sins.

Note: for all my spelling arrogance, I never knew the meaning of the word orthography. Just because I know how to spell doesn’t mean I am naturally gifted in learning vocabulary—spelled correctly or not.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My mom was proud of her family. She loved making sweeping generalizations about the whole extended group of us: “We don’t do that. We do do that.” Anything my brother and I did differently from the context of her family must have come from our father’s side. Sigh—sometimes we’re just like the Jones family or the Langes.

Exactly. Even when we don’t know we are.

We modern people in the US like to think we create our own destinies. We are unique, born of a certain time and circumstances and our reactions to our experiences. We don’t really like to think our genetics have anything to do with how we act—unless we are someone like my mother.

I really didn’t think about the nurture or nature debate either way before I had my own kids. But when I did, my own little twin study project told me there was at least something to the whole nature side. Week one I had two very different babies with two very different reactions to almost everything in their environment, it seemed. Since I started out tandem nursing and continued doing so for months, there were few moments I spent with just one baby during those early weeks except for in the rare instance when one was sleeping while the other was awake.

Twin A contemplated her hands and maybe raised an eyebrow when she was hungry. Her body was often floppy, like a rag doll. She got distracted while eating. She didn’t make a lot of noise but when she did she made sure she was heard. Twin B was always making noise, reacting to every transition and screaming in anger when too hungry or too wet, or not moving enough. His body was often so rigid we called him Mr. Plywood and he never, ever got distracted while eating.

These two brand new people were persons in their own from the start. However genetic matter had combined in each of them it had created each with some sort of history and even—it appeared—some baggage.

No doubt we have since nurtured their natures in ways that make their original natures even more pronounced, but we definitely did not have a say as to how they were molded in the first place.

I am no scientist, but I admit to being fascinated with all the DNA breakthroughs that have happened in the last decades as to lineage—the personality and behavioral traits as well as the physical traits. How have my ancestors—the ones I never knew—affected who I am and how have my husband’s ancestors combined with mine to affect my children?

A few months ago I started talking with a woman in my church choir about where we were originally raised and pretty soon we realized we could be related. We both come from German-American families in Nebraska who gathered together to sing—and she and I are singing together today. What would it mean if we have a mutual ancestor who is our link to the move to the New World? Anything? I don’t really know, but somehow I care to discover if we are connected and, if so, how.

What I do know is that I’ve found the relative whose looks I share on my father’s side. My son looked like his paternal grandfather’s mother as a toddler—and looks like his own father now. My daughter looks like me in many ways, but not all. But what about the who of who each of us is—how much of that can we tie to specific relatives we never even knew?

Is there really something to my mother’s “we do or don’t do that” statements beyond the way we were nurtured? Something about that feels so deterministic and opposite of notions of independence and yet I wonder . . . and being a good descendant from the Ritters and Rodehorsts, my words instantly lead me to burst out in song.

Oh yes, I wonder, wonder . . . who wrote the book of love—or rather, who wrote the book of life that flows through my veins? Or even more so, what are the whys and whats that DNA reveals about the great plan the Who—God—had for our ancestors before us—and for us—and for those yet to come?

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

The days and nights have been mostly lovely for running: warm sunny days and cool but not cold nights. Even the ground of late has not been treacherous, which is a particular blessing in February. So I’m getting faster, right?

No. Still listening to my body and it’s still not telling me to go farther and faster. So I watch my shadow and try to sense whether or not my form is proper for good health and healing and work on keeping my footsteps fairly quiet. I breathe in the blue skies or cool night breezes.

I try to stay with the fitness I have now and keep each moment as it is. I remind myself that the numbers are not the point. They should not be the main point even when my body is stronger but they are especially not the point when my biggest goal is just to do the running and keep that form of movement part of my life still.

These are hard goals to accept for someone who ran track for eight years and who was running alone on the roads long before that was a common activity for young girls in high school. I have been doing this running thing off and on for more than 35 years, but there were definitely some years when I was sure I had run my last mile—and that felt just awful to me.

So often it is just me and my head and my feet on some road or trail. I never have been one of those people who had to surround myself with people in order to run, even though I did enjoy running workouts with others during my track and cross country seasons. It’s just the social aspects of running aren’t the main reasons I run and sometimes I even find myself feeling a bit off-kilter from running with others.

Last week my husband and I planned to run a club race where I knew—by doing the math from the numbers I do observe—that I was going to have to accept being one of the last runners in the pack. The distance was longer than my normal run and most of the other people run many more miles and more often than I do.

The day dawned warm, but windy in the way that was the norm where I grew up running. But I’m many years and many miles away from that first running space—I no longer have to have the mental toughness to run daily in such conditions. Still, I showed up.

Because I do pay attention somewhat to the numbers, I realized I was running too fast, lulled by that wind at my back that was going to confront me with full-frontal force when I turned to face the back of the out-and-back course. Suffice it to say the run got a whole lot harder and I got a whole lot slower the longer I was out running against the wind.

I was doing the best I could just to finish, even if my finish time was going to be faster than I had expected. I figured that maybe I really shouldn’t worry too much about kicking it in as I usually do—I may run a race slow but I am that former competitor who knows how to finish strong. Nonetheless, my sleeping body still complains too loudly of its aches most nights and I weigh too much—my ego needs to stay in check with reality. Hey, I was running, and that was good enough, right?

But my ego hates that some people think I am new to this thing I have been doing for about 70% of my years on this earth—as you can probably tell, my ego is the part that keeps up with the math and the statistics and what used to be. I ran the race I should for the body I have right now—and was working on being good with finishing two and half minutes earlier than expected when this woman jumped out to try to hold my hand to help me finish.

I hope I didn’t seem too rude but—even with my end-of-the-race labored breathing—I told her I didn’t want to hold hands. I know what I’m doing—and right now it’s listening to my body just as it was all those years ago. I’m guessing she wanted to be helpful, but she insulted the girl I was who ran mile after mile alone and who was willing to be the only female in a race. I am in this life for the long run and if that means I have to take a slower, shorter run than I’d prefer, then that’s what I’ll do.

Besides, the days and nights have been just lovely for all those slower and shorter runs I’ve taken. I focus on breathing in and out and letting it all be enough, one footfall at a time. Slow and steady wins the race I’m running these days, even when I finish at the back of the pack.

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012

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